By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia health officials are recommending, not mandating, masking indoors ahead of a busy season filled with proms, graduations, weddings and other events. The health department says people should put their masks back on inside and have recommendations on avoiding getting and spreading COVID-19.

It’s party time when people are gathering for proms, weddings and other events, and even with vaccinations and tests, COVID is still spreading. That’s why health officials say masks are important now.

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“We wanted to make sure people knew that it is a time that we need to be a little bit more careful,” Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said.

It’s the season for spring events like graduations with concerns that COVID will be the uninvited guest, creating superspreader events.

Philadelphia is now averaging 261 new cases of COVID-19 per day over the last two weeks. The city has a 9.4% positivity rate.

“We’re putting out recommendations for before, during and after events,” Bettigole said. “This is, again not to try people from going to these events because I think we really need these happy events right now, but just to be a little more cautious, to think through what we need to do.”

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The health department is recommending people test before they attend big events and if they’ve been exposed to COVID, to wear a mask if they decide to still go. Outside events are still considered safer than indoors, especially when eating.

Health officials are recommending anyone who’s attended a large indoor event without masking to test three to five days afterward.

“I actually think we need to all assume that any large indoor event will have somebody who has COIVD and is infectious,” Bettigole said. “Go in with that assumption and act accordingly. Don’t skip it. My son’s graduating from college in a week and a half. I will absolutely be there, but I’ll have my mask on.”

Bettigole said boosters are especially important now, another measure that can help avoid another spike in hospitalizations.
The city isn’t considering instituting new mandates currently.

“Not at this point now, but I do want to make sure people have the information they need to protect themselves,” Bettigole said.

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Bettigole says people who test positive for COVID should contact their health care providers for information on treatments such as Paxlovid.

Stephanie Stahl